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WILLIAM PITT, EARL OF CHATHAM.
THE GREAT COMMONER.
MONG the famous orators of the eighteenth century, none has conferred so many benefits upon America as the great statesman who stood her friend and fought her battles almost alone in the Parliament of England.
William Pitt was educated at Oxford; but severe attacks of gout, to which he was subject almost throughout his life, caused him to leave college and travel in the south of Europe. On his return he entered the army, but was chosen a member of Parliament in 1735. He rapidly came to occupy a leading position, although his independence and his criticism of the ministers of George II retarded his promotion to office. He became premier, however, in 1757, but held office only for a few months, the dislike of the King causing him to be dismissed. He was, however, the most popular statesman in England, and he soon returned to office. His health breaking down, he resigned; but returned to public life in 1771, and took a prominent part in opposition to the oppression of America. In a famous address, a portion of which is given below, he not only predicted the repeal of the Boston Port Bill and the other offensive measures, but did much to bring that repeal about. One of his most memorable speeches was that delivered in 1777, against employing Indians to fight against the Americans. His ill-health kept him from taking a very active part in the debates; but he insisted on making a speech in May, 1778, in the midst of which he suffered an apoplectic stroke. He lingered only a few weeks.
"His eloquence," says Brougham, "was of the very highest order. Vehement, fiery, close to the subject, concise, and sometimes boldly figurative, it was original and surprising, yet quite natural, to find passages or felicitous hints in which the popular assemblies took boundless delight. Some fragments of his speeches have been handed down to us; but these bear so small a proportion to the prodigious fame which his eloquence has left behind it, that far more is manifestly lost than has reached us."
In public office he was an example of disinterested independence, and in an age when public life was almost universally corrupt, he convinced the public that he was proof against all sorts of temptation. His reputation was made in the House of Commons, and he was almost idolized by the people, who called him The Great Commoner; but he sacrificed some of his popularity when, in 1766, he was raised to the peerage as Earl of Chatham.
REPEAL CLAIMED BY AMERICANS AS A RIGHT.
FROM THE SPEECH AGAINST THE BOSTON PORT BILL.'
T is not repealing this or that act of Parlia
ment, it is not repealing a piece of parchment,—that can restore America to our bosom. You must repeal her fears and her resentments; and you may then hope for her love and gratitude. But now, insulted by an armed force at Boston, irritated by a hostile array before her eyes, her concessions, if you could force them, would be suspicious and insecure,-the dictates of fear, and the extortions of force! But it is more than evident that you can not force them, principled and united as they are, to your unworthy terms of submission. Repeal, therefore, my Lords, I say! But bare repeal will not satisfy this enlightened and spirited people. You must go through the work. You must declare you have no right to tax. Then they may trust you. There is no time to be lost. Every moment is big with dangers. While I am speaking, the decisive blow may be struck, and millions involved in the consequence. The very first drop of blood shed in civil and unnatural war will make a wound which years, perhaps ages, may not heal. It will be immedicabile vulnus.
When your Lordships look at the papers transmitted to us from America,-when you consider their decency, firmness, and wisdom,-you can not but respect their cause, and wish to make it your own. I must declare and avow, that, in the master states of the world, I know not the people nor the Senate, who, under such a complication of difficult circumstances, can stand in preference to the delegates of America assembled in General Congress at Philadelphia. For genuine sagacity, for singular moderation, for solid wisdom, manly spirit, sublime sentiments, and simplicity of language,-for everything respectable and honorable, -they stand unrivaled.
I trust it is obvious to your Lordships that all attempts to impose servitude upon such men, to establish despotism over such a mighty Continental Nation, must be vain, must be fatal. This wise people speak out. They do not hold the language of slaves. They tell you what they mean. They do not ask you to repeal your laws as a favor. They claim it as right-they demand it. They tell you they will not submit to them. We shall be forced ultimately to retract. Let us retract while we can, not when we must. I say we must necessarily undo these violent, oppressive acts. They must be repealed. You will repeal them. I pledge myself for it, that you will, in the end, repeal them. I stake my reputation on it. I will consent to be taken for an idiot, if they are not finally repealed.
Avoid, then, this humiliating, this disgraceful necessity. Every motive of justice and of policy, of dignity and of prudence, urges you to allay the ferment in America, by a removal of your troops from Boston, by a repeal of your acts of Parliament. On the other hand, every danger and every hazard impend, to deter you from perseverance in your present ruinous measures ;— foreign war hanging over your heads by a slight and brittle thread,-France and Spain watching your conduct, and waiting the maturity of your errors !
To conclude, my Lords; if the ministers thus persevere in misadvising and misleading the King, I will not say that they can alienate the affections of his subjects from the Crown, but I will affirm that they will make his Crown not worthy his wearing; I will not say that the King is betrayed, but I will announce that the Kingdom is undone!
EARL OF BEACONSFIELD.
THER great English statesmen have contributed to the more serious departments of literature, but it is Disraeli alone among the prime ministers of England who takes rank among the writers of great novels.
Of Jewish descent, he was born in 1805, received a private education, and prepared for the law; but decided upon literature instead. When he had barely reached the years of manhood, he produced a novel, "Vivian Gray," which was not only well received in England, but was translated into several other languages. Several other novels followed during the years between 1828 and 1834, and he then turned his attention to politics, preparing several pamphlets, one of which was "A Vindication of the English Constitution." A series of political letters in the London Times, under the signature of Runnymeade, followed these.
Disraeli had made several efforts to enter Parliament, but it was only in 1837 that he succeeded. He seems to have been exceedingly awkward in his early attempts at oratory. His first speech in the House of Commons was received with such shouts of laughter that he could not go on. The stern stuff of which the future prime minister was made became evident in the defiant words with which he took his seat. "I have begun several times many things, and have succeeded at last. I will sit down now; but the time will come when you will hear me." Ten years later he was acknowledged as one of the strongest speakers in the House of Commons. His reputation was established by his attacks on the free-trade policy of Sir Robert Peel. His political course can not be called a consistent one, but his wonderful ability enabled him to obtain and to maintain a hold upon the conservative party, which continued throughout his life, and he became a great favorite of Queen Victoria. He became prime minister in 1868, and again in 1874, and was raised to the peerage as Earl of Beaconsfield in 1877. Besides those already mentioned, his most famous novels are "Coningsby Tancred; or the New Crusade," "Lothair," published in 1870, and which had an enormous circulation, and "Endymion," which was his last literary work. Disraeli's literary power was very great, but the quality of 's novels is by no means uniform. Several of them were of a flimsy character, and it is sometimes objected to his work that an air of cold insincerity is manifest throughout his pictures of society.